Thursday, April 08, 2021

Welcome to FromDC2Iowa: Contents & Guide

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Latest Half-Dozen Posts (Full Text)

A Profit Deal & Alternative Schools

Move To Online Gambling a Bad Deal for Iowans
Nicholas Johnson
Iowa City Press-Citizen (online), Letters, 4th position, April 7, 2021, https://tinyurl.com/3n6z7r78


Gambling, once illegal in Iowa, is now online. TV commercials encourage record-breaking sports betting. As a former sports law professor, gambling’s impact on the integrity of collegiate and professional sports concerns me. More concerning, Tom Coates (Des Moines Consumer Credit) believes the odds are good that Iowa will see more bankruptcies, suicides, divorces and other fallout due to the spike in sports wagering. [Photo credit: Kinnick Stadium video display, Riverside Gambling Casino advertisement, Nicholas Johnson]

I was introduced to gambling as a pre-teen. The family was visiting friends in a large house in San Francisco. The grownups wanted adults’ conversation, so I was handed our host’s straw hat filled with nickel slugs, told to go to the attic and play the slot machines. Never without a little notebook, pencil and curiosity, I kept track of the number of slugs that went into the machine and the winnings.

My conclusion? I’ve never given a dime of my own to the gambling industry. Like Steve Martin’s character in the movie “The Jerk,” I wrote in my little notebook, “I get it, this is a profit deal.”

For Iowans tempted to further enrich the gambling industry, it’s a line worth remembering — along with the phone number 1-800-BETS OFF.

Nicholas Johnson, Iowa City
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Need For Alternative Schools Has Been Met
Mary Vasey
Iowa City Press-Citizen (online), Letters, 3rd position, April 7, 2021, https://tinyurl.com/3n6z7r78

Thank you, Republicans, for considering the need for alternatives to traditional schools for students who are or may be falling through the cracks. While Republicans may not intend to leave this impression, it does make me wonder why they consider this an “unmet need.” [Photo credit: Iowa City Community School District]

Having taught at Metro High School for over 20 years, I encourage those legislators to learn about Cedar Rapids’ Metro High School, Iowa City’s Tate High School and the many other fine alternative schools throughout the state and across the nation. Legislators will find this is a need that has been identified and successfully served for years by the dedicated educators in Iowa school districts’ alternative schools.

Mary Vasey, Iowa City
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Tags: a profit deal, alternative schools, gambling, Metro High School, online gambling, public education, sports gambling, sports integrity, Tate High School,

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Protecting Democracy

Will Our Democracy Survive?
Nicholas Johnson
The Gazette, March 17, 2021, p. 6A

Will our democracy survive?

Some things we prize can’t protect themselves. Like the environment. Since 1970 it’s had the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Our democracy can’t protect itself either. What percentage of a nation’s people must want a government “of, by, and for the people” to make it a reality?

Between 121 and 140 House members refused to recognize President Biden’s election.

The 2020 election turnout was a 120-year record. Yet one-third of eligible voters didn’t vote; 23% are “not interested in politics.”

Only 18% of Americans think our democracy is “working very well.” Alternatives to democracy thought “good” include government by experts (40%), a strong man with few legislative restraints (22%), and the military (17%).

It’s not that no one is aware of our democracy’s disintegration.

There are already numerous individuals and organizations working to reduce divisiveness and increase collaboration, such as the 56 U.S. House members in the Progressive Caucus, Dr. Chris Peters’ Our Braver Angels Iowa, and LivingRoomConversations.com.

From our nation’s beginning civics preparation was a driving reason for colleges and public K-12 schools. Educators know this, and organizations such as the Education Commission of the States and Educating for American Democracy (with its “roadmap for excellence”) are working to bring it back.

The origin of the word “democracy” (Greek words for “people rule”) has motivated expansion of the eligible voting base from white, male landowners over 21 to include people of color, women, and those over 18.


There are two options for those whose political party loses elections.

The one democracy compels is a revised party platform of proposals more attractive to the electoral majority than the proposals of the other party; the second is to make it possible for a minority of voters to win the majority of elections and legislative seats with gerrymandered district boundaries and a variety of voter suppression techniques.

The Republican Party has chosen the second. It had no new platform of proposals for the 2020 election. It learned, as Senator Lindsey Graham explained, that without “election reform” “there will never be another Republican president.” It is now pushing some 250 “reforms” in 43 state legislatures.

Many organizations and individuals are working on these challenges – including the U.S. House with its broad “For the People Act of 2021” (HR 1).

The point is not that no one is monitoring and trying to strengthen the weak spots in our democracy. Many persons are.

What’s needed are two things.

The first is a central institution, constantly monitoring and commenting on all elements of our democracy – the efforts to make them stronger, and where they’re under attack. It could be a nonpartisan commission, a major foundation’s project or an academic center.

The second is a commitment from the mass media to give the reports of this institution daily coverage – similar to the regular reporting this past year of COVID cases, hospitalizations, deaths and now progress with vaccinations.

For democracy to have a prayer of survival it will require the attention, words and deeds of each of us.
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Nicholas Johnson, Iowa City, is the author of Columns of Democracy. Comments: mailbox@nicholasjohnson.org

# # #

SOURCES

EPA 1970. Environmental Protection Agency, https://www.epa.gov/history/origins-epa

Of, by and for the people. Gettysburg Address, Nov. 19, 1863, https://rmc.library.cornell.edu/gettysburg/good_cause/transcript.htm

Refusal to accept Biden’s election. Li Zhou, “147 Republican lawmakers still objected to the election results after the Capitol attack; Congress has certified President-elect Joe Biden as the winner of the election — but some Republicans still objected,” Vox, Jan. 7, 2021, https://www.vox.com/2021/1/6/22218058/republicans-objections-election-results

One-third didn’t vote. Domenico Montanaro, “Poll: Despite Record Turnout, 80 Million Americans Didn't Vote. Here's Why,” npr, Dec. 15, 2020, https://www.npr.org/2020/12/15/945031391/poll-despite-record-turnout-80-million-americans-didnt-vote-heres-why

Americans’ support for democracy. Carroll Doherty, “Key findings on Americans’ views of the U.S. political system and democracy,” Pew Research Center, Apr. 26, 2018, https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/04/26/key-findings-on-americans-views-of-the-u-s-political-system-and-democracy/ (“About six-in-ten Americans (58%) say democracy is working well in the U.S., though just 18% say it is working very well.”)

Richard Wike, Katie Simmons, Bruce Stokes and Janell Fetterolf, “Democracy widely supported, little backing for rule by strong leader or military,” Pew Research Center, Oct. 16, 2017, https://www.pewresearch.org/global/2017/10/16/democracy-widely-supported-little-backing-for-rule-by-strong-leader-or-military/

Divisiveness. Michael Dimock and Richard Wike, “America is exceptional in the nature of its political divide,” Pew Research Center, Nov. 13, 2020, https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2020/11/13/america-is-exceptional-in-the-nature-of-its-political-divide/ (“Americans both see this problem and want to address it. Overwhelming majorities of both Trump (86%) and Biden (89%) supporters surveyed this fall said that their preferred candidate, if elected, should focus on addressing the needs of all Americans, ‘even if it means disappointing some of his supporters.’”)

Carroll Doherty, “Key findings on Americans’ views of the U.S. political system and democracy,” Pew Research Center, Apr. 26, 2018, https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/04/26/key-findings-on-americans-views-of-the-u-s-political-system-and-democracy/ (“Today, nearly equal shares in both parties (46% of Democrats and 44% of Republicans) say “they like elected officials who make compromises with people they disagree with.”)

Problem solvers caucus, https://problemsolverscaucus-gottheimer.house.gov/; Dr. Chris Peters, Braver Angels Iowa, https://www.facebook.com/braverangelsiowa; Living Room Conversations, https://livingroomconversations.org/

Civics education. Integral to K-12 and higher ed. Lisa Guilfoile and Brady Delander, Introduction, Guidebook: Six Proven Practices for Effective Civic Learning,” Education Commission of the States and National Center for Learning and Civic Engagement, Jan. 2014, http://www.ecs.org/clearinghouse/01/10/48/11048.pdf (“Earlier in our nation’s history, civic education was broadly seen as integral to the purposes of public schools and universities.”) Education Commission of the States, https://ecs.org (search: “civics”) Educating for American Democracy, https://educatingforamericandemocracy.org

Voting. “Democracy (Ancient Greece),” Resource Library, National Geographic, https://www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/democracy-ancient-greece/ (“The word “democracy” comes from two Greek words that mean people (demos) and rule (kratos).”)

“History of Voting in America,” Secretary of State, State of Washington, https://www.sos.wa.gov/_assets/elections/history-of-voting-in-america-timeline.pdf (“1776 -- Only white men age 21 and older who own land can vote.”)

No Republican Platform. Reid J. Epstein, “The G.O.P. Delivers Its 2020 Platform. It’s From 2016,” The New York Times, Aug. 25, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/25/us/politics/republicans-platform.html (“Every four years since 1856, the Republican Party has produced a platform articulating its priorities for the next president. But like so much else disrupted by President Trump, the Republican National Committee has dispensed with producing a 2020 platform . . ..”)

Dominick Mastrangelo, “Graham: If Trump concedes election, Republicans will 'never' elect another president,” The Hill, Nov. 8, 2020, https://thehill.com/homenews/525063-lindsey-graham-if-trump-concedes-election-republicans-will-never-elect-another (“’If Republicans don't challenge and change the U.S. election system, there will never be another Republican president elected again,’ Graham said Sunday on Fox News.”)

250 laws 43 states. Amy Gardner, Kate Rabinowitz and Harry Stevens, “How GOP-backed voting measures could create hurdles for tens of millions of voters; At least 250 new laws have been proposed in 43 states to limit mail, early in-person and Election Day voting,” The Washington Post, March 11, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/interactive/2021/voting-restrictions-republicans-states/

“State Voting Bills Tracker 2021; State lawmakers continue to introduce voting and elections bills at a furious pace,” Brennan Center for Justice, Feb. 24, 2021, . https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/research-reports/state-voting-bills-tracker-2021

H.R. 1 – For the People Act of 2021, https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/house-bill/1/text

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Saturday, February 13, 2021

Impeachment: A Third View

Contents
Executive Summary
Presidential Oath
Summary of Trial Lawyers' Arguments
Minority Leader McConnell's Reaction
The Article in 2nd Impeachment
Reaction to Articles in 1st Impeachment
Was Speech Text "Incitement"?
The Speech in Context
What Was Trump's Impeachable Offense?
Executive Summary

Many "Articles of Impeachment" of presidents itemize a specific act or two, e.g., Trump's first impeachment, pressure on Ukraine government; Trump's second, his Jan. 6 speech. This blog post endeavors to build a case for a preeminent Article when a president's actions, whether with intent or effect, constitute an attack on democracy itself, as embodied in the Columns of Democracy, i.e., the essential foundational institutions that support and make possible our democracy, e.g., the peaceful transfer of power after inclusive, free and fair elections, or a respected, free and factual mass media.
[here are adjacent examples of both from Trump's Jan. 16 speech: "[O]ur election was so corrupt that in the history of this country we've never seen anything like it. And you know what else? We don't have a free and fair press. Our media is not free, it's not fair. . . . It's become the enemy of the people." Brian Naylor, "Read Trump's Jan. 6, Speech, A Key Part of Impeachment Trial," npr, Feb. 10, 2021, text and video https://www.npr.org/2021/02/10/966396848/read-trumps-jan-6-speech-a-key-part-of-impeachment-trial].

# # #

"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President f the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

U.S. Constitution, Art. II, Sec. 1, Clause 8
Introduction

President Trump's lawyers -- and supporters in and out of the House and Senate -- argue he should not be found to have engaged in "high crimes and misdemeanors" because (a) his January 6 Ellipse speech did not "incite" the violence that followed, (b) it is unconstitutional for the Senate to hold an impeachment trial of a former president whose term has expired (he cannot, by definition, be "removed" from an office he no longer holds), (c) Senate rules require separate charges be in separate Articles, (d) it would violate his First Amendment rights to punish or forbid such a speech, and (e) it would be further divisive of an American population desperately in need of unity.
Following the Senate Trial vote Feb. 13, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell spoke. He first excoriated former President Trump and his behavior, and then explained his "not guilty" vote, citing Constitution Article II, Sec. 4: "The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors." McConnell argued that to convict Trump he would have to be, at the time of the conviction, "president," which he was not; it would also be impossible for him to "be removed from Office."
The House impeachment managers, with Representative Jamie Raskin as lead manager, argue that (a) Trump did incite the crowd to storm the Capitol (4 years of telling his "big lie" -- "landslide" "stolen" election victory -- statements; selection of place, date and time of Congress' certifying electoral votes; his support of prior crowd violence; refusal to order support for Capitol police or tell insurgents to stop; and statements of participants that they were following Trump's orders), (b) a Senate trial of an impeached former president no longer in office is constitutional (language of Constitution, English practice that influenced drafters, their remarks, majority of legal scholars), (c) First Amendment does not protect speech triggering seditious insurrection, (d) for the Senate not to convict would set a precedent for future presidents, and (e) accountability (of Trump) was essential to putting this behind us (thus, presumably, contributing to unity).

Something like that.

As a former U.S. Supreme Court law clerk, law professor, and occasional constitutional law prof, I was overwhelmed with the creativity, quality, effectiveness and delivery of Rep. Jamie Raskin and the other House Managers. (Full disclosure: I had shared some undertakings with his late father, Marc; my first memory of Jaimie was watching his participation as a child in a White House demonstration.) I could not have done it as well as they did. I have no suggestions as to how they could have done it better, and certainly no "criticisms."

Thus, what follows is not about their presentation of the House's Article (by which they were to some extent bound), but some reactions to the theory and wording of that Article.
# # #

A Third View

The Article of Impeachment, "Incitement of Insurrection," [H.Res. 24, 117th Cong., https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/house-resolution/24/text] consists of five paragraphs.

Following the title ("Incitement of Insurrection") the first paragraph contains the allegation that, "Trump engaged in high Crimes and Misdemeanors by inciting violence."

The second paragraph mentions the House and Senate Joint Session "to count the votes of the Electoral College" and Trump's "statements that, in context, encouraged -- and foreseeably resulted in -- lawless action at the Capitol."

The two-sentence third paragraph refers to Trump's "prior efforts to subvert and obstruct the certification of the results of the 2020 Presidential election," and his "phone call on January 2, 2021, [to] the secretary of state of Georgia."

The fourth paragraph reads in its entirety, "In all this, President Trump gravely endangered the security of the United States and its institutions of Government. He threatened the integrity of the democratic system, interfered with the peaceful transition of power, and imperiled a coequal branch of Government. He thereby betrayed his trust as President, to the manifest injury of the people of the United States."

The concluding, fifth paragraph asserts that "he will remain a threat to national security, democracy, and the Constitution if allowed to remain in office, and has acted in a manner grossly incompatible with self-governance and the rule of law."
My reaction to this text is similar to my reaction to Article I in Trump's first impeachment
[Articles of Impeachment Against Donald John Trump, H.Res.755 — 116th Congress, Dec. 18, 2019], emphasizing his interactions with the Ukrainian government:
What the House Democrats should have emphasized for a confused public (and Republican Senate), is why Trump's impeachment, and Senate conviction, should be a slam dunk. It is because, unlike other behavior that has, or has not, been found to be impeachable during the 62 impeachment hearings in the House since 1789, what Trump has been doing is something the drafters had experienced, caused them great legitimate concern, and they specifically tried to prevent: namely, foreign interference in our politics, government, and especially elections, whether sought from within or imposed from abroad.
"Impeachment: What the House Should Have Said; Trump's Conviction Should Have Been A Slam Dunk," FromDC2Iowa, Jan. 21, 2020, https://fromdc2iowa.blogspot.com/2020/01/impeachment-what-house-should-have-said.html.
(See also, "Understanding Impeachment," FromDC2Iowa, Nov. 11, 2019, https://fromdc2iowa.blogspot.com/2019/11/understanding-impeachment.html; and Articles of Impeachment Against Donald John Trump, H.Res.755 — 116th Congress, Dec. 18, 2019, [https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-resolution/755/text], Article I: Abuse of Power/"President Trump solicited the interference of a foreign government, Ukraine, in the 2020 United States Presidential election. He did so through a scheme or course of conduct that included soliciting the Government of Ukraine to publicly announce investigations that would benefit his reelection . . . Trump, by such conduct, has demonstrated that he will remain a threat to national security and the Constitution if allowed to remain in office, and has acted in a manner grossly incompatible with self-governance and the rule of law.")
Article I is headed, "Incitement of Insurrection." The first paragraph charges "Trump engaged in high Crimes and Misdemeanors by inciting violence against the Government of the United States." The second paragraph asserts, "Shortly before the Joint Session commenced, President Trump, addressed a crowd [where he] willfully made statements that . . . encouraged -- and foreseeably resulted in -- lawless action at the Capitol."

Taken out of its context, it is difficult to find within the text of Trump's Jan. 6 11,153-word, hour-plus speech an "incitement of insurrection."
[Brian Naylor, "Read Trump's Jan. 6, Speech, A Key Part of Impeachment Trial," npr, Feb. 10, 2021, text and video https://www.npr.org/2021/02/10/966396848/read-trumps-jan-6-speech-a-key-part-of-impeachment-trial.] He did not suggest the mob hang the Vice President and shoot the Speaker of the House, attack the Capitol police, leave bombs at the DNC and RNC headquarters, break windows and bang on doors, or other of the horrific things that happened. What did he recommend be done with senators and House members who do not support him? "You primary them." What else did he say? "[W]e're going to walk down to the Capitol, and we're going to cheer on our brave senators and congressmen and women;" "I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard."

In context, however, the January 6 speech was but part of a year-long chain of "incitements" for which it was the last; without those early links Trump's speech might never have produced the disaster it did.

There were lines and phrases in the Article that hinted at some of the links in that chain. The House Managers did their best to include them in their story, but such efforts did little to establish that Trump's January 6 speech, standing alone, constituted "incitement of insurrection."

Here are some examples:
  • "President Trump repeatedly issued false statements asserting that the Presidential election results were the product of widespread fraud and should not be accepted by the American people . . .."

  • "he reiterated false claims that 'we won this election, and we won it by a landslide.'”

  • "President Trump’s conduct on January 6, 2021, followed his prior efforts to subvert and obstruct the certification of the results of the 2020 Presidential election.

  • Those prior efforts included a phone call on January 2, 2021, during which President Trump urged the secretary of state of Georgia . . .."

  • "President Trump gravely endangered the . . . institutions of Government. He threatened the integrity of the democratic system, interfered with the peaceful transition of power . . .."

  • "Trump, by such conduct, has demonstrated that he will remain a threat to national security, democracy, and the Constitution"
The common theme in Trump's behavior was the design of a no-lose strategy; a desire to hang onto the presidency come what may. If he received the most electoral votes he would win. If he did not he had a number of potential paths to retained power. He tried them all. For months prior to the election he repeatedly fed his base the lie that American elections are "fraudulent" and "rigged." Mail-in ballots were not to be trusted. He argued that he would, of course, have the support of the majority of voters, and that, therefore, if he was not proclaimed the winner the results were obviously dishonest. Election night, early returns sometimes went his way. Later, as the mail-in ballot returns came in and the lead shifted, Trump insisted that was proof the election had been stolen from him. When recounts only confirmed his loss, his next step was to file lawsuits challenging the vote. He lost 61 of them. He then turned to speaking directly to electors, county auditors, state secretaries of state, legislators and governors in an effort to get them to change their state's electoral vote count. By late December he was becoming desperate. His last hope was to reverse, stop, or delay the congressional certification of the states' electoral college votes.

That is the context. That was the playing out of his scheme. The Jan. 6 speech, and the insurrection by a mob he had brought to anger over months, was not his initial desire. Stopping the final certification of the Electoral College vote was his last chance. It was only the last domino to fall at the end of a months' long chain.

In other words, the gravamen of Trump's impeachable "high crimes and misdemeanors" was not his speech, it was his attack on our democracy itself; in this case, our system of voting described in another part of Article II (Sec. 1, clauses 1-3), and Amendment XII, that describe the Electoral College system.

In my book, Columns of Democracy, I make the point that a democracy can be neither created, nor sustained, standing alone. It requires a foundation of supporting "columns," such as a respected free and independent media, and, in this case, a system of voting that is respected and trusted by the citizenry as inclusive, easy to use, accurate and honestly administered. Such a system makes for the smooth transfers of power that distinguish democracies from authoritarian dictatorships. Attacking that system, weakening it, threatening the voters trust in it, failing to support peaceful transfer of power -- that should be the impeachable offence.

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Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Democrats’ ‘Bridge Too Far’

Struggling Democrats Must Build More Bridges

Nicholas Johnson
The Gazette, Feb. 10, 2021, p. A6

Linn County Auditor Joel Miller says, “to run for statewide office may be a bridge too far if the Democratic Party cannot broaden their appeal in rural Iowa.”

He’s an optimist. The reality’s worse.

Color Iowa’s 99 counties red and blue. Six went for Joe Biden (the three with state universities, plus Linn, Polk and Scott); 93 for the former president – 94 percent.


That’s even worse than the national map: 83 percent of the nation’s counties are red; 17 percent are blue. [Photo credit: U.S. Bureau of Land Management]

Yes, I know. We don’t vote by county. Besides, half of the country’s population lives in only 143 of those counties (5 percent) – enough to make Joe Biden president.

But a political party that relies on the east coast for money and the left coast for votes is not a national party. Democrats shouldn’t be surprised to discover they’ve alienated voters in that 83 percent of U.S. counties who feel ignored and have understandably turned anti-establishment.

It doesn’t have to be this way. There was a time when it wasn’t.

An oft-told story bears repeating.

As Ken Burns tells it, “When FDR's funeral procession went by, a man collapsed; he was so overcome. A neighbor picked him up and said, 'Did you know the president?' And he responded, 'No, but he knew me.'"

Few presidents since have made that connection. President Biden has a chance.

President Franklin Roosevelt’s legacy was a Democratic Party tent sheltering those in abject poverty, the working poor, union members, small farmers, and lower middle class. Had the party nurtured that coalition instead of Wall Street, knocked on their doors and listened, it would today control most city councils and state legislatures -- plus the U.S. House, Senate and White House.

Two Texas Democratic Party officials asked me, a college student, to run for the Legislature. Stunned, I explained I was an Iowa boy, with two part time jobs, a heavy course load and knew few Austin voters.

They responded with a story of another recruit. He mumbled while talking to his shoes and asking voters, “You wouldn’t vote for me would you?”

Now understanding their standards, and decidedly less flattered, I asked, “How’d he do?”

“He won,” one replied. “He knocked on every door in Travis County – and won.” I took a pass on that opportunity.

But I remembered the lesson during the 1962 Pat Brown-Richard Nixon gubernatorial race, door knocking in an unorganized county where I knew fewer voters than I’d known in Travis County, Texas. If they were willing to door-knock I’d assign them an area and move on.

Could the Democratic National Committee find at least one experienced campaign organizer to work each of the 2500 counties now painted red? Of course. And it must if it is to be a national party representing more than 5 percent of America’s counties and 50 percent of its people, building bridges well within Joel Miller’s reach.
_______________
Nicholas Johnson of Iowa City held three presidential appointments and is the author of Columns of Democracy. Comments: mailbox@nicholasjohnson.org

SOURCES

Joel Miller. Gage Miskimen, “Linn County Auditor Considers Run for Secretary of State,” The Gazette, Feb. 2, 2021, p. A3; https://www.thegazette.com/subject/news/linn-county-auditor-may-run-for-secretary-of-state-in-2022-20210202

Republican counties. Iowa Trump 93 Biden 6 (Black Hawk, Johnson, Linn, Polk, Scott, Story, https://www.politico.com/2020-election/results/iowa/

Republican counties U.S. “The Biden and Trump data in the posts appears to match the information reported by the Brookings Institute on Nov. 7. On Dec. 8, the think tank updated the report to say Biden had won 509 counties and Trump 2,547 counties, according to ‘unofficial results from 99% of counties.’” [Me: 509+2547=3056] https://www.reuters.com/article/uk-factcheck-votes-counties-election/fact-check-clarifying-the-comparison-between-popular-vote-and-counties-won-in-the-2020-election-idUSKBN2931UY

143 counties, half population “U.S. Census Bureau, population is not homogeneously distributed across the country. In 2017, out of a total of 3,142 counties and county equivalents more than half of the population inhabited just 143 counties. https://www.reuters.com/article/uk-factcheck-votes-counties-election/fact-check-clarifying-the-comparison-between-popular-vote-and-counties-won-in-the-2020-election-idUSKBN2931UY

“But he knew me.” Google search [“did you know" no "but he knew me"] turns up dozens of sources where quoted/told, but in sample none discovered with a citation to an acceptable academic or journalistic source. Maybe Ken Burns’ is the best for authenticity: Bob Fisher, “Ken Burns Spends 14 Hours with ‘The Roosevelts,” Documentary Magazine, Sept. 12, 2014, https://www.documentary.org/online-feature/ken-burns-spends-14-hours-roosevelts

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Saturday, February 06, 2021

Governor Kim Reynolds and Involuntary Manslaughter

"A person commits involuntary manslaughter . . . when the person unintentionally causes the death of another person by the commission of an act in a manner likely to cause death or serious injury."
Source: Iowa Code, Title 16, Sec. 707.5, https://www.legis.iowa.gov/law/iowaCode

"Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds on Friday [Feb. 5] lifted Iowa’s partial face mask mandate, public health restrictions on businesses and limits on public gatherings. . . .
Starting Sunday, the day of the Super Bowl:
• Iowans will no longer be required to wear face coverings in public when around other people for at least 15 minutes.
• Businesses will not be required to limit the number of customers or keep them socially distanced.
• No limits will be placed on the number of people who can gather in public.

Source: Erin Murphy, "Gov. Kim Reynolds lifting Iowa mask rules, limits on businesses and gatherings starting Sunday," The Gazette, Feb. 8, 2021, p. A1, https://www.thegazette.com/subject/news/health/iowa-covid-restrictions-lifted-mask-mandate-gatherings-gov-kim-reynolds-20210205

BREAKING NEWS! IT'S WORSE THAN WE THOUGHT

Can we now still say this is just a violation of the spirit behind the criminal law of involuntary manslaughter?
"Gov. Kim Reynolds did not consult her own public health department before lifting Iowa’s remaining COVID-19 mitigation strategies, including its partial face mask mandate . . .. Iowa Department of Public Health Director Kelly Garcia told the legislators the department was not consulted on the decision — that the governor made that decision on her own . . .."
For the full story see, Erin Murphy, "Gov. Reynolds did not consult state health department before lifting COVID restrictions, Iowa Democrats say," The Gazette, Feb. 9, 2021, p. A1

In some ways the most powerful evidence of the folly of her decision is that many restaurant/bar owners are, notwithstanding the voluntary reduction in their income, continuing to follow CDC standards (and common sense) rather than put the health of their customers, and other members of their communities, at dangerous risk. They are sending Governor Reynolds a sort of "Thanks, but no thanks."
"Christina and Mitch Springman, owners of The Map Room . . . in Cedar Rapids, said their employees’ health is at the core of their decision-making and they will keep their pandemic practices in place. 'They’re the ones interacting with the public. They’re the ones putting themselves at risk. . . . We expect our customers to respect our staff, and during a pandemic that means wearing a mask when within six feet and up and about.'”
For the full story, see Gage Miskimen and Lee Hermiston, "Many Linn and Johnson County restaurants will practice COVID safety despite looser restrictions; Dozens of businesses have shared their plans on social media about maintaining mask rules and social distancing," The Gazette, Feb. 9, 2021, p. A1.
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When it comes to managing this coronavirus global pandemic during 2020 the U.S. was one of the worst countries on Earth. With 4 percent of the world's population (328.2/7674 million) we managed to kill 20 (19.9) percent (459,895/2,303,322) of the world's COVID dead.

And among the U.S. states, Iowa is one of the worst for coronavirus deaths per 100,000 population (17th from the bottom)
[Becker's Hospital Review, Feb. 5, https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/public-health/us-coronavirus-deaths-by-state-july-1.html]. Iowa's comparative ability to administer the vaccines it has received is even worse (at 59.26 percent it's 15th from the bottom of all states [Becker's Hospital Review, Feb. 5, https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/public-health/states-ranked-by-percentage-of-covid-19-vaccines-administered.html]. Oh, and let's not forget that Iowa's percentage of those tested that are positive ranges between 20 and 30+ percent -- compared with New York's earlier standard that schools would not reopen until the percent positive dropped below 3 percent -- and that it now has people who have tested positive for a varient of the virus that may not be stopped by current vaccines. And that our governor wants to make teachers and students go back to school, based on the CDC's statement that it's safe -- but without mentioning the CDC's conditions (masks, social distancing, improved ventilation, vaccines) which have been neither funded nor otherwise made available.

To repeal all of the mandates and suggestions from the Centers for Disease Control regarding control of this virus so that Iowans can gather together to watch the Super Bowl game, while infecting each other, may or may not prove to be good politics when she runs for reelection less than two years from now. But it will certainly leave her with fewer constituents.

The Iowa Code chapter dealing with "Homicide and Related Crimes" does not require that the defendant intended to kill a specific, named individual -- or unknown people in general in a mass shooting. It also deals with defendants who were engaged in behavior that they knew, or should have known, might result in the death of others. Whether what Governor Reynolds has just done violates the letter of Code Section 707 provisions I will leave to Iowa's criminal law attorneys and judges. Clearly (to me) it violates the spirit of these "right to adult life" protections.

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P.S. If you'd like to see the fabulous Janet Schlapkohl playing the role of Governor Reynolds explaining her decision, look for the video she posted on Feb. 6, 2021, at about 10:00 a.m., on her Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/janet.schlapkohl

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Democracy Is Not a Spectator Sport

Democracy Is Not a Spectator Sport

Nicholas Johnson
The Gazette, January 13, 2021, p. A6

On Feb. 14, 2014, Donald Trump told Fox, "When the economy crashes, when the country goes to total hell, and everything is a disaster, then you’ll have riots to go back to where we used to be, when we were great.”

By January 6, 2021, the economy had crashed, our federal government’s pandemic response was the world’s worst, and it seemed like “everything is a disaster.”

It was time for a Trump rally. He claimed “hundreds of thousands of American patriots” were there. The Park Service permit approved 30,000, and with no official count, the media settled on “thousands.”

Trump told them, “After this, we’re going to walk down — and I’ll be there with you — to the Capitol . . .because you’ll never take back our country with weakness, you have to show strength, and you have to be strong. We have come to demand that Congress do the right thing."

Minutes later, at the Capitol, we watched his followers’ “show strength” by staging one of Trump’s predicted “riots to go back to . . . when we were great.”

Some Americans are aware of our slowly crumbling columns of democracy, institutions essential to democracy’s creation and preservation. For them, Trump’s January 6 mob was no surprise. Riots are a part of the endgame in an authoritarian-wannabe’s playbook. It was only a matter of time.

Turns out representative democracy is not universally popular among Americans. The Pew Research Center found 13% thought it totally bad; others thought substitutions for elected officials with direct democracy (29%), experts (40%), strong leaders (22%), or military rule (17%) good ideas.

More voted last Nov. 3 than in any election for 120 years. That was 67% of eligible voters. One-third didn’t vote. An Ipsos survey revealed 23% were “not interested in politics.”

A democracy is fragile, and subject to President Lyndon Johnson’s observation that, “It takes a carpenter to build a barn, but any jackass can knock it down.”

We cannot know if it will be possible to rebuild our shattered democracy. What we do know is that it cannot be rebuilt just by substituting one president for another. It cannot be rebuilt by those who just “believe in” democracy or merely prefer it to alternatives.

It will require those who recognize and work to oppose attacks on the columns of democracy. A democracy requires an educated electorate, a trusted and independent mass media, a wise and nonpartisan judiciary, and efforts to increase, rather than suppress, ease of voting.

Inadequate education and library budgets are an attack on democracy. So is failure to support media with subscriptions and advertising, talk of “fake news” and “enemy of the people,” reverse Robin Hood legislation, or treating courts as a third political branch of government.

Are you willing to watch a little less television to have time for calls and emails to officials? Share more of the resources you can afford with local media and democracy-promoting candidates? Help sturdy our crumbling columns of democracy? [Image: Constitutional Convention of 1787, National Park Service]

If there are enough of us doing that, we have a prayer of rebuilding our barn, the democracy our founders hoped for. If not, we’re just waiting for the next authoritarian-wannabe, and the next January 6.

Nicholas Johnson of Iowa City is the author of Columns of Democracy (2018). Contact: mailbox@nicholasjohnson.org

SOURCES

"When the economy crashes, when the country goes to total hell, and everything is a disaster, then you’ll have riots to go back to where we used to be, when we were great.” “Donald Trump’s 2014 Political Predictions,” Fox News Interview, video, 6:26, Feb. 10, 2014, 2:02-2:12 https://video.foxnews.com/v/3179604851001#sp=show-clips Snopes https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/trump-economy-crashing-quote/

"After this, we’re going to walk down — and I’ll be there with you — . . . to the Capitol . . .. Because you’ll never take back our country with weakness, you have to show strength, and you have to be strong. We have come to demand that Congress do the right thing . . .." Trump, Jan 6, 2021

"Donald Trump Speech 'Save America' Rally Transcript," Jan. 6, 2021, Segment beginning 16:25, https://www.rev.com/blog/transcripts/donald-trump-speech-save-america-rally-transcript-january-6

Snopes: https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/trump-tell-supporters-storm/

Crowd size. “How Many Were at the MAGA Trump March & Protest in DC? Crowd Size Photos,” copy of Park Service permit (5000; modified to 30,000). Reports: “thousands” at rally “hundreds” at Capitol. https://heavy.com/news/maga-march-trump-dc-rally-crowd-photos/

NYTimes collection of stories: https://www.nytimes.com/live/2021/01/06/us/washington-dc-protests

Support for democracy: Richard Wike, Katie Simmons, Bruce Stokes and Janell Fetterolf, “Democracy widely supported, little backing for rule by strong leader or military,” Pew Research Center, Oct. 10, 2017, https://www.pewresearch.org/global/2017/10/16/democracy-widely-supported-little-backing-for-rule-by-strong-leader-or-military/

Percentage voting: Domenico Montanaro, “Poll: Despite Record Turnout, 80 Million Americans Didn't Vote. Here's Why,” Dec. 15, 2020, NPR, https://www.npr.org/2020/12/15/945031391/poll-despite-record-turnout-80-million-americans-didnt-vote-heres-why
Ipsos survey: "Nonvoters' reasons for not voting include: not being registered to vote (29%); not being interested in politics (23%) . . .." Ibid.

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Wednesday, December 16, 2020

The Vaccines Are Coming!

The Vaccines Are Coming, Eventually

Nicholas Johnson
The Gazette, December 16, 2020, p. A6

The vaccines are coming! The vaccines are coming!

Hold it. No, they’re not. Not for most of us. Not now.

For maybe six months our “vaccine” remains “wear your mask, social distance, and wash your hands.”

By then, hopefully, over 70 percent of Americans will be vaccinated or next in line -- the participation required to restrain COVID-19. Can enough anti-vax folks be converted? Acceptance percentages are increasing, but a recent poll indicated, at that time, even 60 percent of nurses and 40 percent of doctors were not planning to be vaccinated.

There are reasons why most drugs’ clinical trials take years not months. Participants in the BioNTech SE (Pfizer) trial will be followed for two more years while the vaccine is being administered.

There’s no rational reason to refuse inoculation. But there are still questions, and evolving answers, as the world’s beta test group expands from thousands to millions. Here’s a checklist. [Photo credit: maine.gov]

Global pandemics require global eradiction. It took the World Health Organization 25 years to eradicate smallpox.

The BioNTech SE vaccine requires refrigeration at minus 94 degrees. Packing requires dry ice, now in short supply. Dry ice produces CO2 that, on planes, risks combustion.

Only 25 countries have access to minus-94-degree refrigeration, thereby excluding five billion people from vaccination.

Nor is equity guaranteed in the U.S. distribution to people of color, the poor, immigrants, prisoners, and low population rural areas.

Best case, distribution from manufacturers’ plants to Americans’ arms is a logistics nightmare, and the last mile is 50 governors’ responsibility. How has that been working for us the last 10 months?

What does “inoculation” mean? Will everyone show up for their second shot? What’s known about dosages? AstraZeneca discovered cutting the first dose in half dramatically improved results. Protection for mild infections only or more? For six months or a lifetime? Will annual vaccinations be required? Can those vaccinated still infect others? Has anyone been tasked with maintaining a national database of those vaccinated?

Little is known about the vaccines’ safety and effectiveness with children, pregnant women, and the oldest of the elderly. Five of the FDA’s Advisory Committee did not vote for approval, two because it was approved for those 16 and above. Two cases have revealed additional side effects for those with allergies. What additional side effects may emerge, for which groups, and how serious will they be?

Follow the money. Is this a profit maximization operation? Or is healthcare a right – especially when no one is protected from a global pandemic until everyone is? Who pays? Who profits? How much? Vaccine recipients? Individual states? The federal government? Pfizer’s CEO glowingly proclaimed its vaccine a success. The stock price escalated and he sold $5 million of his Pfizer shares at a profit.

Ultimately, every American who wants a vaccine can have one. By then we’ll know more about these vaccines. They can help mitigate COVID-19 cases and deaths. Sadly, our need, our goal is not mitigation but global eradication.
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Nicholas Johnson, Iowa City, is former Co-Director of the Institute for Health, Behavior and Environmental Policy. mailbox@nicholasjohnson.org

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SOURCES

Note: References for the data cited within this column are contained, below, sometimes with additional information, in the order in which they appear in the column.

70% for protection.

Janelle Wang, “Doctors: 70% Need to Get Vaccinated for Herd Immunity,” NBC Bay Area, last visited December 11, 2020, https://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/coronavirus/doctors-70-need-to-get-vaccinated-for-herd-immunity/2417183/ (“Doctors say at least 70% of people need to get the coronavirus vaccine in order to eradicate the pandemic.”)

60% nurses, 40% doctors won’t get vaccinated. David Martin, "Inside the Operation Warp Speed effort to get Americans a COVID-19 vaccine," CBS, 60 Minutes, Nov. 8, 2020, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/covid-19-vaccine-distribution-60-minutes-2020-11-08/ ("[New Jersey Health Commissioner] Judith Perisichelli: 'We surveyed 2,000 health care individuals, physicians and nurses and we know that over 60% of the physicians said that they would get the vaccine. We know that about 40% of the nurses said that they would line up to get the vaccine.'")

Ed Silverman, "STAT-Harris Poll: The share of Americans interested in getting Covid-19 vaccine as soon as possible is dropping," Stat News, Oct. 19, 2020, https://www.statnews.com/pharmalot/2020/10/19/covid19-coronavirus-pandemic-vaccine-racial-disparities/

Trials take years.

Elan Kantor, "How Long Do Clinical Trials Take?" Antidote, March 24, 2020, https://www.antidote.me/blog/how-long-do-clinical-trials-take (“Looking at the big picture, it takes approximately ten years for a new treatment to complete the journey from initial discovery to the marketplace. Clinical trials alone take six to seven years on average to complete.”)

Katie Thomas, David Gelles and Carl Zimmer, "Pfizer’s Early Data Shows Vaccine Is More Than 90% Effective," New York Times, Nov. 12, 2020; print edition Nov. 10, 2020, p. A1, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/09/health/covid-vaccine-pfizer.html (“Independent scientists have cautioned against hyping early results before long-term safety and efficacy data has been collected.”)

Pfizer to follow for 2 years.

Erika Edwards, "Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine promising, but many questions remain; Pfizer's vaccine is a new type of technology that's never been used in mass human vaccination," NBC News, Nov. 10, 2020, https://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/pfizer-s-covid-19-vaccine-promising-many-questions-remain-n1247102 (Pfizer's chief executive officer, Albert Bourla, told CNBC Monday that the drug maker will follow participants for two years to analyze safety and ongoing protection. 'As time progresses, we will find out about the durability of the protection,' Bourla said.”)

There are still questions.

“Erika Edwards, "Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine promising, but many questions remain; Pfizer's vaccine is a new type of technology that's never been used in mass human vaccination," NBC News, Nov. 10, 2020, https://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/pfizer-s-covid-19-vaccine-promising-many-questions-remain-n1247102 ("Pfizer's vaccine is a new type of technology that's never been used in mass human vaccination before and experts caution that much remains unknown about its safety, how long it might work and who might benefit most.")

Smallpox.

History of Smallpox, CDC, https://www.cdc.gov/smallpox/history/history.html

-94F.

Catherine Ho, “Pfizer Vaccine Needs to be Stored at minus 94 Degrees Fahrenheit; Is the Bay Area Prepared to do that?” San Francisco Chronicle, November 9, 2020, https://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/Some-coronavirus-vaccines-need-to-be-stored-at-15711275.php

Dry ice; combustion.

Elisabeth Buchwald, “The perils of transporting millions of COVID-19 vaccines with dry ice across the U.S.,” MarketWatch, December 10, 2020, https://www.marketwatch.com/story/the-challenges-and-perils-of-transporting-millions-of-covid-19-vaccines-with-dry-ice-across-the-u-s-11607355179 (“there are safety concerns about transporting large quantities of dry ice, which can emit carbon dioxide, on airplanes. Packaging dry ice in a container that does not allow adequate release of the gas could cause the container to explode from the built-up levels of pressure, a process known as sublimation. Dry ice can also deprive a confined space of oxygen, making it difficult to breathe. . . . the U.S. Department of Transportation and the International Air Transport Association classify dry ice as hazardous when transported. . . . The FAA has said it would allow United Airlines … to carry 15,000 pounds of dry ice per flight — five times more than normally permitted, The Wall Street Journal reported.”)

David Gelles, “How to Ship a Vaccine at –80°C, and Other Obstacles in the Covid Fight,” New York Times, September 19, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/18/business/coronavirus-covid-vaccine-cold-frozen-logistics.html ("When dry ice melts, it emits carbon dioxide, making the air on planes potentially unsafe for pilots and crew." "Dry ice . . . is made from carbon dioxide, . . . created as a byproduct during the production of ethanol. . . . This spring . . . people began driving less . . . ethanol production slumped, and so did the supply of carbon dioxide.")

25 countries with refrigeration.

David Gelles, “How to Ship a Vaccine at –80°C, and Other Obstacles in the Covid Fight,” New York Times, September 19, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/18/business/coronavirus-covid-vaccine-cold-frozen-logistics.html (“A recent study by DHL and McKinsey found that a cold vaccine would be accessible to about 2.5 billion people in 25 countries. Large parts of Africa, South America and Asia, where super-cold freezers are sparse, would be left out.”)

Governors’ responsibility.

Katie Thomas, David Gelles and Carl Zimmer, "Pfizer’s Early Data Shows Vaccine Is More Than 90% Effective," New York Times, Nov. 12, 2020; print edition Nov. 10, 2020, p. A1, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/09/health/covid-vaccine-pfizer.html (“it remains unclear where people will receive the shots, and what role the government will play in distribution.")

Astrazeneca half-dose.

Kaiser Health News, “New Results Confirm AstraZeneca’s Half-Dose ‘Mistake’ Is 90% Effective,” December 9, 2020, https://khn.org/morning-breakout/new-results-confirm-astrazenecas-half-dose-mistake-is-90-effective/ (“The partial results published in The Lancet on Tuesday confirmed that the two full doses given at least one month apart appeared to be 62% effective, while a half dose followed by a full dose was about 90% effective.”)

Immunization meaning.

Katie Thomas, David Gelles and Carl Zimmer, "Pfizer’s Early Data Shows Vaccine Is More Than 90% Effective," New York Times, Nov. 12, 2020; print edition Nov. 10, 2020, p. A1, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/09/health/covid-vaccine-pfizer.html (“no one knows how long the vaccine’s protection might last.” “an independent board reviewing the data has not told her or other company executives other details, such as how many of the people developed mild versus more severe forms of Covid-19.”)

Erika Edwards, "Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine promising, but many questions remain; Pfizer's vaccine is a new type of technology that's never been used in mass human vaccination," NBC News, Nov. 10, 2020, https://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/pfizer-s-covid-19-vaccine-promising-many-questions-remain-n1247102 (“would people previously sick with Covid-19 be protected against reinfection? That remains unclear.”)

Erika Edwards, "Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine promising, but many questions remain; Pfizer's vaccine is a new type of technology that's never been used in mass human vaccination," NBC News, Nov. 10, 2020, https://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/pfizer-s-covid-19-vaccine-promising-many-questions-remain-n1247102 (“This first analysis only included data on 94 confirmed Covid-19 cases, meaning there is no proof yet that the vaccine prevented infection.”)

Children, pregnant women, elderly.

Erika Edwards, "Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine promising, but many questions remain; Pfizer's vaccine is a new type of technology that's never been used in mass human vaccination," NBC News, Nov. 10, 2020, https://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/pfizer-s-covid-19-vaccine-promising-many-questions-remain-n1247102 ("'We don't know anything about groups they didn't study, like children, pregnant women, highly immunocompromised people and the eldest of the elderly,' Dr. Gregory Poland, director of the Mayo Clinic's Vaccine Research Group in Rochester, Minnesota, said.")

Four dissenters.

Laurie McGinley, Carolyn Y. Johnson and Joel Achenbach, “FDA says it ‘will rapidly work toward’ authorization of Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine,” Washington Post, December 11, 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2020/12/10/fda-advisory-panel-recommends-covid-vaccine/ (“The committee voted yes, 17 in favor, four against and one abstention. . . . at least two dissenters objected to inclusion of 16- and 17-year-olds, given . . . how few had participated in the trial.”)

Alergies.

Danica Kirka, “UK Probes Whether COVID-19 Vaccine Caused Allergic Reactions,” Associated Press, December 9, 2020, https://apnews.com/article/uk-allergic-reaction-pfizer-vaccine-64ddccd70c38a39f880da27941db3540 ; The Gazette, December 10, 2020, p. A4

Who pays?

Riley Griffin, Drew Armstrong and Bloomberg, "Germany funded the development of Pfizer’s COVID vaccine—not U.S.’s Operation Warp Speed," Fortune, Nov. 9, 2020, https://fortune.com/2020/11/09/pfizer-vaccine-funding-warp-speed-germany/

Katie Thomas, David Gelles and Carl Zimmer, "Pfizer’s Early Data Shows Vaccine Is More Than 90% Effective," New York Times, Nov. 12, 2020; print edition Nov. 10, 2020, p. A1, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/09/health/covid-vaccine-pfizer.html (“Operation Warp Speed, the federal effort to rush a vaccine to market, has promised Pfizer $1.95 billion to deliver 100 million doses to the federal government”).

Pfizer CEO. Reuters Staff, "Pfizer CEO made $5.6 million stock sale on same day as COVID-19 vaccine update: filing," Business News, Reuters, Nov. 11, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/pfizer-albert-bourla-stake/pfizer-ceo-made-5-6-million-stock-sale-on-same-day-as-covid-19-vaccine-update-filing-idUSKBN27R1XL

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Tags: anti-vax, AstraZeneca, BioNTech, children, COVID-19, doses, dry ice, eradication, FDA, herd immunity, immunization, infection, logistics, mitigation, Moderna, Pfizer, smallpox, vaccine, vaccination

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